Thursday, July 18, 2013


The Trayvon Martin case got me thinking about racism, and also prejudice towards certain types of people. I wondered why some of my friends seem more prone to judge someone by their skin or by their lifestyle.

We've been talking a lot about it as a family. My son Josh had some very passionate opinions and emotions he expressed online. Why did he have such a strong feeling about Trayvon? Josh is an artist, and artists tend to be more sensitive and open to new people and different cultures. Our kids went to elementary schools in Long Beach at which they were the minority as white kids. Josh remembered his black playmates and said he never had a negative experience and how accepting the black kids were to him at school. Growing up, my kids were often around some of my African American friends from our church that we spent a lot of time with, Rosalee and Jerome Watkins, and Rev. James Lattaker. James and I started a ministry called the Multi-Cultural Community Coalition to combat racism and work to implement Rodney King's sentiment that we can all get along together.

The reason I go into that, is because I noticed some of my friends growing up who spoke about other races in Archie Bunker terms tend to be isolated and surrounded by people who are like them. Two of the root causes of prejudice, which literally means to 'prejudge' are unfamiliarity and a stereotype. By unfamiliarity, I don't mean the person hasn't seen or been around different people, but that the person doesn't have close, loving relationships with the person or persons they profile.

When I brought African American friends into fellowship with some of my white friends, and people within my immediate circle saw how great my friends were, it brought a reduction in prejudice or stereotypes. I would be idealistic to think it eliminated all racism, but it's progress to get people to like each other who have fears toward each other. Stereotypes rest on propaganda and unfamiliarity. Stereotypes feed our primitive fears of those different from us and our desire to dominate them so they don't dominate us. People I know who are negative towards a certain type of person, tend to revel in jokes, cartoons, and public commentary that perpetuates the stereotypes. Hitler's propagandists used these same methods to perpetuate negative stereotypes against Jews, so their lives would be devalued.

My wife and I met at a school that was very 'Religious Right.' There was an obsession among some people there about opposing homosexuals. The leader of the school put out a propaganda film showing the most extreme gay stereotypes you can imagine, images from Gay Pride marches with guys in leather and nuns costumes threatening people. Talk about reinforcing the most extreme stereotype.

When we moved to California, and I started getting work as an actor, I made many friends who were gay and told me their stories. This reduced the stereotypes I had been indoctrinated with at Liberty University. There's just something about becoming friends with people that changes you. The real people aren't like the stereotypes. We got involved ministering to AIDS patients and I was protested by Religious Right hate-monger Fred Phelps who called me a "fag lover."

As humans we form groups and our primal nature looks down on people not in our group. We all probably have some of this prejudice inside us. Learning to befriend, like, and ultimately love those different from us is the answer. The Beatles had it right when they said "All You Need Is Love." And the New Testament had it right when it said, "Love never fails."

Those are my thoughts. But I don't think I have it all figured out and I am interested in any thoughts you have. Friends, what are your thoughts on these questions:

What are the causes and cures for prejudice?

Are some people more predisposed to be open towards those different from them?

Are some people more predisposed to be fearful of those who are different?


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